What Are You Hearing About Root Canals?

Root canals are good for you if they are done correctly.  If successful, a root canal allows the tooth to function normally. If not successful, we can see evidence of an infection on the x-ray as a dark spot around the end of the root of the tooth, or the tooth remains painful. 

What is a root canal? It is a procedure that removes the infection or damaged blood vessels from the tiny chamber inside of a tooth. Picture a chicken bone. The root canal is where the marrow is, but a lot narrower.

The success of a root canal has to do with three factors:

1.     The success at finding every canal (There is at least one canal for each tooth root.)

2.     The thoroughness of cleaning each canal

3.     The quality of the seal of the root canal 

1. Front teeth often have single roots. Back teeth have multiple roots. Within each root, there can be more than one canal. So each canal needs to be found and its contents thoroughly removed. Finding the canals is enhanced by the use of a surgical microscope. 

2. The success of a root canal has everything to do with the thoroughness of cleaning the inside of the canal. That thoroughness may be enhanced through sonic waves or lasers. 

3. The success of the seal is dependent on the condensation of a rubbery material called gutta percha.

Do I see failed root canals? Sometimes.  I then send the patient to a good endodontist who can successfully retreat the root canal and heal the infection. How do I know? The pain goes away or the dark spot on the x-ray disappears within a few months. 

Despite our best efforts, root canals sometimes fail. That’s when we remove the tooth and replace it, often with a dental implant. 

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD

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